Although you may not have heard of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) and their various beneficial effects, they have existed for a long period of time and only recently, their weight loss properties have been discovered. Chia seeds have proven to be of great help during the weight loss process, probably because of the high nutritious content that delays the feeling of hunger and allows you to have fewer meals and even produce satiety earlier.
The composition of chia seeds is complex, containing multiple forms of lipids, proteins, fiber and other vitamins, minerals and oligoelements. These elements are contained in significantly higher amounts than in many other types of seeds. Along with an important amount of omega 3 fatty acids, chia seeds also contain a number of other components involved in human metabolisms and in maintaining a good health. Chia seeds are considered the best natural aliment with a high content of fiber and omega 3, which have been proven to be involved in weight loss processes, because they lower some of the fattening hormones like cortisol.
Chia seeds contain a relatively high amount of oil (between 30-35%) and a very high amount of alpha-linolenic acid (approximately 60-65%). Numerous laboratories have tested the oil content of chia seeds originating different sources, in order to prove the amount of total fatty acids; this was found to range between a minimum of 23% to a maximum value of approximately 32%. From the total amount of fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid represented approximately 15 to 20g /100 g seeds.
This means the alpha linolenic acid represents 55-65% of the total amount of fatty acids. The alpha linoleic acid (ALA) that can be found in chia seeds is similar to the types of fatty acids that are usually found in fish and flax. Chia seeds actually contain more omega 3 fats than the flax seed and do not require you to grind them up. ALA is very important in the healthy functioning of your heart and weight management.
Chia seeds contain approximately 20-23% protein. This amount is significantly higher than the amount of protein that can be found in wheat (15%) or corn (14%).
The proteins include a high amount of lysine, methionine and cysteine, meaning that chia has no limiting factors in a healthy diet, from an amino acid standpoint. As a consequence chia seeds can be included in human diets and represent a balanced source of proteins and amino acids.
Some research that was performed in 2004 on rats found that the relative net protein ratio (RNPR) and the biological value (BV) were 75.1 +- 3.4% and 76.1+- 7.9% with a value of digestibility of 75%. The methionine + cystine component was found to be the limiting factor at 73.2. Lysine was the next lowest at 76.5 of normal children’s requirements.
The seeds of chia contain 2.3 times more fiber/ 100 g of edible portion than wheat, 2.6 times more than oats, 8.3 times more than corn and 9.8 times more than rice. A research from 2008 showed that the total amount of digestible fiber contained by the chia seeds range from 36 to 41 g per 100 g, varying with the test method. There were found no significant differences among different methods regarding soluble and insoluble fractions, the soluble one representing approximately 6 g from 100 g.
Another study showed that the amount of insoluble fiber varied between 23 and 46% and the soluble fiber between 2.5% and 7% in seed originating from different countries.
Antioxidants – A strong antioxidant activity of chia seeds has been demonstrated after analyzing both water and methanol extracts of chia seed meal remains, followed by pressing in order to remove oil. The high amount of antioxidants makes chia a very stable source of omega 3 fatty acids and explains its ability of being stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid.
The most important antioxidants are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, but chia seeds also contain some flavonoids such as myricetin, quercein and kaempferol.
The caffeic and chlorogenic acids have the ability of inhibiting lipid peroxidation and are more effective than the usual antioxidant substances such as vitamin C and E. These are components that can also be found in coffee beans.
Quercetin is able to prevent the oxidation process that affects the lipids and proteins, making it a significantly more effective compound than some other flavonoids and an important mechanism that can cause chia seeds weight loss.
Composition of chia seeds varies even for the plants that have been grown under the same conditions, so the levels of protein and flavonoids can be variable.
All research on antioxidant composition of the seeds showed that the highest amount of antioxidants is represented by the caffeic acid and followed by chlorogenic acid, quercetin and kaempherol.
Chia Seeds are Available from Various Online Stores
Minerals and nutrients
Chia seeds are rich in calcium, manganese any many other nutrients involved in health of bones, heart and liver. 2 ounces of Chia seeds will provide an amount of approximately 600 mg of calcium as opposed to milk that only provides 120 mg. It is beneficial for people who are during a period of weight loss or strenuous exercises because the necessary amount in calcium is increased during these times.
Chia seeds also contain enzymes, some vitamins such as A, E and B and boron – a mineral involved in healthy bone structure that is very useful for people who suffer from osteoporosis.
The usual form of chia seeds that can currently be found on the market contains approximately 95% black seeds and 5% white seeds, but you can also find pure black or pure white seeds. There are very little differences in composition between the black chia seeds and the white ones. It has been proven that the black seeds have a slightly higher amount of antioxidants, but the effectiveness in the weight loss process is not significantly influenced.
One serving of chia seeds weighs approximately one ounce and will provide you with 10 grams of fiber, 5 grams of omega 3 –which is more than 100% of the daily dose recommended – and about 140 calories. It also provides 177 mg of calcium (as opposed to broccoli that only contains 56 mg) and 4.4 g of protein (1 ounce of kidney beans contains 0.01 g)
How to incorporate chia seeds in your meals
Chia is a part of the mint family and it originates from Mexico, where it has been used for a long period of time in cooking. The chia seeds were originally used for energy, endurance and controlling the appetite when food was difficult to find. It was believed that even a small amount of seeds (just ¼ cup) was enough to keep an individual satisfied for an entire day. Chia seeds are relatively unknown outside of the Central America area, but their popularity is currently increasing due to the discovery of their properties.
You can find chia seeds online, but they are also available in health food stores, organic stores and other markets. Chia seeds are easy to store too – you just have to keep them at normal room temperature (approximately 25 degrees Celsius) and out of the action of direct sunlight. If you follow these recommendations you can store chia seeds for as long as 2 years.
There are many ways of incorporating chia seeds into your diet and get your daily dose that will allow you to improve your health and lose excess weight. Chia seeds weight loss can be acquired very easy, because they have a neutral flavor and can be added to almost any type of aliments. You can add the seeds in a salad, soups and even inside, or on top of bread and muffins.
You can even cooking a recipe that contains chia seeds, such as chia pudding. This can be made from 50-75 g chia seeds, 120 ml almond and sesame milk and fig paste in a quantity as high as you wish. There are many recipes including seeds that are very easy to make.
If you desire a more efficient weight loss, you can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of gel made from chia seeds to your everyday diet. Chia seeds gel can be prepared from 9 ounces of water and 1 ounce of seeds and mixing this blend until you obtain a gel. The gel will stored for 15 minutes at room temperature and then you can store it in the refrigerator.
This gel can be added to water, milk, and fruit juices or even mixed in your bowl of oatmeal. You can store the gel in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
It is not recommended to try the chia seeds that are packaged and sold as pet food, even though those contain the same types of seeds. Make sure the chia seeds you buy have been packaged as a food product, because the other ones are not approved as a food product by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Always buy your chia seeds from a local health store. You can also grow chia seeds yourself as long as you make sure that you buy the right type of seeds first.
You will notice that chia seeds are extremely nutritionally dense, do not contain gluten and contain many oxidants, vitamin C, minerals, fiber and proteins that will help you stay fit and healthy. They are easily digested and do not need previous grinding in order for you to be able to eat them.
You can experiment with the seeds and add them to as many foods as you desire because they will not influence the flavor of aliments, but will rather enhance it.
They are also recommended to children, so you can mix them with yogurt, puddings, lemonade, eggs and give a small amount to your child. As they have no specific flavor they can also be consumed in a raw state.
Chia seeds are also very good for athletes. Before training or sport competitions, where a high level of hydration is needed, you can prepare a drink from water and chia seeds which will ensure you keep hydrated during exercise.
The seeds can replace almost ½ of the fat that is usually found in a recipe without changing its taste and texture and will help with lowering the cholesterol.
Chia seeds and weight loss
Chia seeds have positive effects over a wide variety of health problems such as gastro intestinal disorders, cardio-vascular diseases, but most importantly weight loss.
Chia seeds help you lower the number of meals you consume each day, because they will make you feel “full” for a longer period of time. This is due to the slow absorption and metabolism of seeds and is an important aspect in regulating insulin (the hormone that controls the level of sugar that can be found in the blood). The contents of the seeds will prevent future blood sugar drops that cause the feeling of hunger and this way you will consume a lower amount of food.
Weight loss functions are also attributed to ALA. Because it causes a control over blood sugar levels, chia seeds can also be used to prevent or treat diabetes, as it is determined by uncontrolled levels of blood sugar and insulin.
The effects of chia seed consumption has been intensely studied over the years, starting with studies on rats.
Several studies have fed chia to rats in order to determine its effect on the composition of plasma. In one study 24 male Wistar rats were fed ad libitum (free access) with diets that contained equal energy levels that derived from corn oil, chia seed and chia oil for a period of 4 weeks.
The rats that were given chia showed a significant decrease in the levels of serum triglycerides. They also experienced an increase in HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol) with 22 to 50%. The total cholesterol was significantly reduced in rats that had consumed chia seeds. Also, higher levels of alpha linolenic fatty acid were found in these rats compared to the ones that were not fed chia.
This shows how beneficial chia seeds can be to a diet in lowering fat and cholesterol.
The effects of chia consumption have also been studied on human subjects in order to find if the effects found on rats are also effective on humans.
A 28 preliminary trial was conducted with 16 subjects. A group of people received an amount of 28 g of chia seed each day, meanwhile the other group received placebo.
After this period cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels were measured and compared to the same levels that were obtained before the beginning of the clinical trial. The levels differed slightly between the groups, favoring the one that was given chia. The level of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides were lower in this group.
Another study was conducted on 100 subjects who were divided into 2 groups: one was given 30 g of chia seeds two times per day and the other one was given placebo. At the end of the clinical trial results concluded that the group that had received the chia seeds had lower levels of body mass and blood composition.
So, chia seeds have proven to have positive effects on weight loss processes and reduction of appetite. The results can be speeded up if you also associate the diet with some physical exercises.
The seeds will allow you to consume less calories and this will gradually lead to a decrease in your body weight.
Any nutritionist will be able to tell you that in order for a diet to be effective it needs to include high amounts of fibers. Eating a moderate amount of fibers before your main meals will influence your appetite and make you feel fuller, so you won’t eat so much.
Considering that chia seeds can absorb an amount of water of up to 30 times its weight, you can see how this makes you feel full.
The protein it contains is also beneficial during weight loss, because it will provide you with the necessary amount of energy for your body to be able to function properly and will also protect your muscle mass and burn fat.
Many diets consist in basically starving yourself, but that can be tricky because the body will feel the need to get energy from some other source and might use muscles as a form of energy and not burn the excess fat as you desire.
When you ingest chia seeds or chia gel, a barrier will be created between the carbohydrates that you ingest and the enzymes present in the stomach that will digest them. As long as this barrier exists, it will take a longer time to digest carbohydrates and feel the need to ingest another meal. The food will be eventually digested, but at a slower pace and this will cause a delay in the release of insulin and prevent spikes.
If you have fewer insulin spikes, your body will feel a diminished need for refined foods and sugar and this can help eliminate food cravings.
Balancing the levels of your blood sugar can be very helpful if you are known to have either too high or too low blood sugar levels.
It is recommended that you keep taking 1-2 spoons of chia seeds daily in whatever combinations you desire and at least 3-4 times per week.
How safe is the chia seed diet?
A very important aspect when considering a diet is the allergenic potential of the foods you need to consume. Studies conducted in the UK have found no evidence that chia seeds weight loss might trigger any allergic response. Not even individuals who usually experienced allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nut allergies did not show any allergic reactions to chia seeds.
Another study used the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to compare the serum of rats fed with chia seeds and chia oil. This test is usually used in order to find potential food allergens that may be contained in different classes of aliments such as peanuts, almonds, and eggs but showed no potential of allergic reactions regarding chia seeds.
Chia seeds have also been used as a source food to chickens, in order to notice any difference in the omega 3 content of their eggs or meat. Studies have shown good incorporation rates and a reduced content of saturated fat as well.
The conclusion drawn was that chia seeds have a positive impact and can lead to the production of healthier foods, which is desired considering the current amount of processed foods available on the market.
The chia seed diet is very safe, because it does not require you to drastically reduce the amount of food that you ingest. Instead, this will help you reduce your appetite naturally and get nutrients and vitamins at the same time.
Many traditional diets will make you feel tired and weak after a few days, especially if they are based on a significant decrease in your caloric intake. This diet can represent a healthy alternative to these diets and can ensure that you will maintain your good health. As an increased body weight will also causes some associated conditions, a healthy diet can prevent those too.
Along with producing weight loss, chia seeds will act in preventing cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that regular chia seed consumption can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. The omega 3 acids also aid in lowering cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardio-vascular disease.
The fibers contained by the seeds are great for bowel regulation and overall health of the GI tract. This means that while you’re losing weight you will not experience unpleasant side effects that you normally would with a different weight loss option. Moreover, if you had previous intestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome you may get some amelioration. During this diet with chia seeds, your energy levels will be increased and you will get good health.